The Spot: Angry politicans beget angry constitutents

Angry politicians create angry voters who are more likely to help the angry politicians by electing them, donating to them and parroting their angry messages.

The feedback loop of outrage that provides short-term benefits for powerful politicians and long-term harm to American politics is the thesis of a new paper by two researchers — Carey Stapleton at the University of Colorado Boulder and Ryan Dawkins at the Air Force Academy. They studied the reactions of 1,500 people who listened to a congressional debate on immigration.

Fiery messages from like-minded candidates made voters angrier and more disgusted with politics, especially if the voters were not committed to one political party. The irate messages also made them more likely to donate their time and money to the angry candidate’s campaign.

“If political elites were to change the emotionality in their speeches, this might have a direct influence on lowering general levels of anger in the politics,” Stapleton and Dawkins wrote. “Strategically, however, that seems unlikely. Politicians benefit from having angry supporters.”

Stapleton told The Post he’s long been intrigued by anger in politics, even writing his doctoral dissertation on the topic. He places blame on political elites but also opinion leaders in media and on social media sites, whose algorithms tend to promote the loudest, angriest posts.

“There are short-term benefits to voters being angry but the long-term implications are not very good: distrust, a lack of compromise and, when taken to the extreme, violence and riots and what we saw on Jan. 6. It turns into something that is uncontrollable,” he said.

Stapleton sees no easy solution for lowering political blood pressures, because politicians, commentators and social media companies must police themselves. But as the paper published  in Political Research Quarterly makes clear, that’s unlikely to happen soon.

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Top Line

“Unions don’t typically take such a concrete step,” but the Colorado AFL-CIO did this week. No donations to Democrats until May 2022.

Capitol Diary, Part I • By Saja Hindi

2022 Statehouse races are shaping up

Colorado House Rep. Dylan Roberts of Avon announced this week that he is seeking term-limited Kerry Donovan’s seat in the state Senate in 2022.

Preliminary redistricting maps would have moved Roberts out of House District 26, a role he’s held for three consecutive terms representing Eagle and Routt counties. Instead, the draft maps pitted him against Democratic incumbent Rep. Julie McCluskie in House District 61.

So far, five Republicans and seven Democrats have declared their candidacy for 2022 elections for state Senate seats, according to Colorado Secretary of State’s Office records. In the House, it’s 16 Democrats, six Republicans and one from the Unity Party.

Roberts, along with Donovan and Rep. Iman Jodeh of Aurora, sponsored this year’s push to lower insurance rates through a new law that will create a public-private insurance option, expected to begin in 2023.

Roberts said he plans to continue focusing on issues related to cost of living, health care, housing and child care if elected in Senate District 5, according to the announcement, which also listed off ideas for new bills on the environment, water, climate change and economic and workforce needs.

Donovan has endorsed Roberts as she campaigns in her quest to unseat U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert in the 3rd Congressional District.

Colorado law only allows a candidate for state office to run for one seat at a time unless it’s for a special district board. A person could drop out of the race for one seat and run for another, but they would still have to comply with all the same timelines for the election.

Capitol Diary, Part II • By Alex Burness

Ice cream heats up

The news that Ben and Jerry’s will end sales of its frozen treats in the occupied West Bank presents the first test of a 2016 Colorado law that declared loyalty to Israel.

That law directed the state Public Employees’ Retirement Association to divest from any company refusing to do business with Israel. It was a response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian freedom, and one of the only recent examples of the state legislature wading into foreign politics.

The retirement fund has a portfolio of more than $50 billion, including $49 million invested in Unilever — parent company of Ben and Jerry’s — according to PERA spokeswoman Laura Morsch-Babu.

Because Ben and Jerry’s is housed in a conglomerate, it would be harder to divest than if the state had money invested in Ben and Jerry’s alone. The 2016 law triggers an analysis of what divestment would look like in this case, and any action would have to be approved by PERA’s board. Morsch-Babu said that won’t happen until at least September.

Colorado’s not the only one facing this test: More than 30 other states also have laws opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

More Colorado political news

  • Coloradans applying for DACA are in limbo after a federal judge’s ruling.
  • New laws look to reduce maternal deaths and improve racial disparities in Colorado.
  • CU Foundation donor says poor money management has cost it $1 billion.
  • A new report says oil and gas development supports hundreds of thousands jobs in Colorado.
  • Only 4.4% of Colorado bills this year passed strictly along party lines, the Colorado Sun reports

Federal politics

Link up

  • The Colorado AFL-CIO has stopped donating to the Colorado Democratic Party.
  • Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will be in Grand Junction tomorrow, with the fate of the Bureau of Land Management headquarters still undecided.
  • Rep. Lauren Boebert beat her Democratic challengers in fundraising last quarter.
  • The city of Parker objects to being in two congressional districts, Colorado Community Media reports.

Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson

Council, in the flesh

No more plastic partitions, no more tape blocking strangers from sitting next to each other, no more masks (unless you want to wear one). The Denver City Council is back to the old ways of doing business in person.

First up was Tuesday’s Finance and Governance Committee meeting, where committee chair, Councilwoman Kendra Black, briefly but warmly welcomed her colleagues and others back.

“We have real, live people sitting in the pews,” Black said with a smile.

Five of the council’s 13 members showed up to that meeting and 10 came Wednesday for the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee. But the big test is Monday, when the council will hold its first full meeting in chambers, Council Administrator Stacy Simonet said.

The council first began meeting remotely in April 2020 in the early days of the pandemic. The technology proved so challenging that the group had to cut the call short and delay its agenda for a week.

After a few weeks, the council reverted to in-person meetings — plastic partitions and social distancing in effect — only for one of them in June 2020 to be taken over by a group of protesters calling to defund the city’s police department.

When the protesters promised to return to the council chambers again and again, the group once more withdrew into online meetings.

Now, council members appear ready to keep doing what they’ve been doing, except now they’ll be next to each other and facing their constituents rather than the cameras atop their computers.

More Denver and suburban political news

  • Denver teachers will focus more on accelerated learning and mental health in the coming school year.
  • The Denver City Council agreed to spend the city’s first chunk of federal American Rescue Plan money — $46.2 million worth — restoring cuts made during the pandemic.
  • About 150 massage businesses in Denver must now obtain licenses to stay open.
  • Denver Public School officials are still considering whether to require students to wear masks in the upcoming year.

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